Solar photovoltaic, or solar PV, electricity differs from other generation options in that it does not spin a turbine and generator to produce electricity; it produces electricity directly. As light strikes a solar cell, electrons within the cell are excited into movement. That movement creates a current within the crystalline semiconductor that makes up the bulk of the solar cell. That current is then collected and transmitted as electricity.
Solar energy is typically produced by small, individual cells that are grouped together in panels or modules. Many of these modules are grouped together in larger units called arrays. Small groups of arrays are often installed in distributed generation setups on individual homes and businesses. These are often called “rooftop” or “residential” solar.
At the utility-scale, many arrays can be grouped together in larger industrial power stations. The largest, and most productive, of these solar generation facilities are in southwestern states. However, solar facilities are also being constructed in Michigan. The Turrill and Demille Solar facilities in Lapeer went online in 2017 with a maximum capacity rating of 19.7 MW and 28.6 MW respectively. Utility plans indicate their intention to build many thousands of megawatts more solar over the next several years.